This week in The New Yorker is “Someone,” a short story by National Book Award winner Alice McDermott. “Someone” cuts at me. This story has the expected elegance we know as Alice McDermott along with a painful sexiness. My breasts will never feel the same after reading of Marie’s experiences. I’ll forever remember Gabe’s last words to his sister. I’ve always thought Alice to be a devout novelist. Never did I think I would have the chance to read her prose in short form.
Not only have I had the pleasure of reading Alice’s novels After This and Charming Billy, I’ve also had the honor of studying with her at Johns Hopkins University and Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Once early on, when I was struggling with the issues of writing as a woman, about “female things,” wondering if I shouldn’t write less gender specific, she said to me, “A woman’s story is enough.” She encouraged me to dig deeper into the voice I was playing at rather than change it to suit a gender or aesthetic platitude that women may sometimes feel to be expected of them. Her body of work is a testament to this “enough,” a word that truly does not dojustice to her stories, but one she uses because she has an understated elegance in her way that makes you want to be a better person and a better writer just being around her. Her words and teaching have stayed with me.
Alice has a novel due out this year. At Sewanee this summer, she read a sneak peak of it. I am so much anticipating the sight of it on the shelves. I’ll leave you, now, with the author’s words from a recent New Yorker interview with editor, Deborah Treisman: “I’m interested in trying to convey a particular way of seeing—literally and figuratively. I’m not out to condemn or enshrine this way of seeing; I only want to find the language that will reproduce it accurately.”